Peter was not the first Pope. The early church was led by all the apostles, in a more democratic way. Jesus never put Peter in a position of command over the other apostles. Jesus is and has always been the only supreme leader in the Church.
Did Jesus make Peter Pope?
No, Jesus did not make Peter Pope. On the contrary, He said that no one should want to be greater than the others. According to Jesus, leadership is to serve others, not to command them.
Whoever says Jesus made Peter Pope uses three passages from the Bible: 1) Matthew 16: 17-19 , where Jesus calls Simon Peter; 2) Luke 22: 31-32 , in which Jesus tells Peter to strengthen his brothers; and 3) John 21: 15-17 , when Jesus tells Peter to look after his sheep.
- Jesus does not place Peter as the head of Matthew’s text. Peter has an important part in the foundation of the church, but Jesus builds it. Jesusis the cornerstone, fundamental to the church, not Peter. Peter himself said that all believers are stones in the construction of the church! Jesus did not give Peter the keys of the Kingdom alone. In Matthew 18:18 , He gives all disciples the same authority, the authority to proclaim the gospel and ask for things from God.
- Lucas’ excerpt is a warning. Jesus knew that Peter was going to deny it (says this in the next verses) and that he was going to have a crisis of faith. So he prayed for him, that he would not be overcome by the devil. Strengthening the brothers is something that every believer must do, it is not the exclusive function of the Pope.
- In the passage in John, Jesus does not command Peter to be the chief of all. He says to take care of his sheep (disciples). Every leader must take care of the other disciples. In this conversation Jesus is restoring Peter to his position as an apostle, which he denied when he denied Jesus.
Is there evidence that Peter was Pope?
No, the evidence indicates that Peter was not a Pope. He was an important apostle for being bold and his ministry was essential in the foundation of the church. But the different local churches were quite independent, and for about 300 years there was no supreme leader. The Bible has many proofs that Peter was not a Pope nor was he recognized as a Pope:
- Peter was an elder– he did not say he was superior to the elders, but said that they were his equals ( 1 Peter 5: 1 ). The Pope is the supreme leader of the Catholic Church, above all other authorities.
- Peter was accountable to the church– he was not above all authority, and when he was criticized for eating with Gentiles, he explained himself to the other apostles and to the church ( Acts 11: 1-4 ). This proves that their attitudes were not always accepted as indisputable.
- Peter was usually accompanied by other apostles– for example, at Pentecost Peter “got up with the Eleven”. Pedro was often the spokesman for the group, because he was able to speak. But that does not mean that he was the chief (Aaron spoke for Moses and was not the chief).
- Peter was not infallible– even after Pentecost Peter made mistakes. On one occasion, Paul publicly rebuked him for having a hypocritical attitude ( Galatians 2: 11-13 ). The Pope is supposed to be infallible.
- Peter had a wife– Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and, years later, Paul mentioned that Peter was traveling with his wife ( 1 Corinthians 9: 5 ).
- Paul was more famous– the Jews and Romans thought that Paul was the supreme leader of the church, not Peter ( Acts 24: 5 ). If Peter were the leader, above all others, the government would hear about it.